Stationery vs. Stationary – How To Distinguish Them

02.05.24 Commonly confused words Time to read: 5min

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It is highly likely to encounter words in English that are often confused because of their similar phonetics and spelling. Especially in academic writing, these words can lead to mistakes in properly choosing the correct word, as they serve different purposes and convey distinct meanings. Understanding the difference between these commonly confused words is essential for clear and effective communication. A significant example of such words is “stationery” vs. “stationary.”

Definition of “stationery vs. stationary”

The word “stationery” refers to a noun and encompasses a wide range of writing materials and accessories, such as notepads, stamps, envelopes, and other related products that facilitate written communication. These items can also be office supplies like pens and paper. It is strictly used as a noun to denote the collection of items used for writing and office tasks.

“Stationary” on the other hand, is an adjective marked by the common ending “-ary.” It describes something that is not moving or is designed to stay fixated in one place. The word is frequently used to refer to objects that are immobile, fixed, or intended to remain in a fixed position.

Stationery

… acts solely as a noun, referring to writing material or office supplies such as paper, pens, notepads, and envelopes.

Stationary

… acts as an adjective, focusing on the aspect of immobility, describing objects that are intended to stay in a fixed place.

Due to their similar spelling and pronunciation, the words “stationery” and “stationary” are commonly confused. While “stationery” is a noun, referring to writing materials and accessories, the word “stationary” with an “a” in the ending refers to an adjective, describing an object that does not move and stays in one place. The two words have entyrely different meanings, but only differ in one letter. It is crucial to apply these words in the intended contexts for accurate communication.

Note: Remembering the difference can be easier if you think of “stationery” with an “e” as related to “envelopes,” and “stationary” with an “a” as related to being “at a standstill.”

Using the word “stationery”

Merely functioning as a noun, “stationery” essentially refers to office supplies or anything related to writing material. The sentences below provide examples of using this noun in the correct context.

Examples

  • Every September, students buy new stationery for the school year.
  • She chose elegant stationery with a monogram for her wedding invitations.
  • The office manager ordered a fresh supply of stationery for all employees.

Tip for using “stationery” correctly

Substituting “stationery” with suitable synonyms can help gain the correct understanding of using the word and, simultaneously, enhance your votaxiulary. Advancing your writing style can be of high advantage in academic writing. The table below shows how to use synonyms for “stationery.”

Synonyms Examples
Desk accessories My new desk setup includes a range of stationery.
My new desk setup includes a range of desk accessories.
Office supplies Due to budget cuts, we need to limit our use of stationery.
Due to budget cuts, we need to limit our use of office supplies.
Writing materials The teacher asked the students to bring their own stationery.
The teacher asked the students to bring their own wrtiting materials.

Using the word “stationary”

Indicated by the common suffix “-ary,” the word “stationary” only acts as an adjective. It describes objects that are in a fixed position, cannot be moved, or are not intended to be moved. The following examples illustrate how to use this adjective correctly in sentence structures.

Examples

  • She preferred using the stationary exercise bike to outdoor cycling.
  • The sculpture looked almost lifelike, despite being stationary.
  • The train was stationary for an hour due to a signal failure.

Tip for using “stationary” correctly

To avoid repetition and redundancy in your work, it is an essential skill to have a wide-ranged votaxiulary and alternate words with suitable synonyms. The table below illustrates three alternative words for “stationary.”

Synonyms Examples
Fixed The camera was stationary in the nest of the bald eagles.
The camera was fixed on the nest of the bald eagles.
Immobile To withstand the weather, the sculpture in the park was stationary.
To withstand the weather, the sculpture in the park was immobile.
Static The street performer remained stationary, despite the strong wind.
The street performer remained static, despite the strong wind.

Test yourself!

Practice sheet

Fill in the blanks and make sure you grasped the correct understanding of the words “stationery” and “stationary.” You can find the correct answers in the second tab.

  1. Please put the _______ bike in the corner of the gym.
  2. I need to buy some _______ for my new home office.
  3. The artwork was placed on a _______ pedestal in the gallery.
  4. She loves collecting colorful _______ for her scrapbooking projects.
  5. The car remained _______ at the traffic light, even after it turned green.
  6. For his first day at school, he got a new set of _______.
  7. The guard remained _______ at his post, vigilant throughout the night.
  8. The wedding invitations were printed on high-quality _______.
  9. Despite the chaos, the ancient statue stood _______ in the museum.
  10. She received a beautiful _______ set as a gift from her colleague.
  1. Please put the stationary bike in the corner of the gym.
  2. I need to buy some stationery for my new home office.
  3. The artwork was placed on a stationary pedestal in the gallery.
  4. She loves collecting colorful stationery for her scrapbooking projects.
  5. The car remained stationary at the traffic light, even after it turned green.
  6. For his first day at school, he got a new set of stationery.
  7. The guard remained stationary at his post, vigilant throughout the night.
  8. The wedding invitations were printed on high-quality stationery.
  9. Despite the chaos, the ancient statue stood stationary in the museum.
  10. She received a beautiful stationery set as a gift from her colleague.
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FAQs

“Stationery” is a noun denoting a collection of office items or writing supplies such as paper, cards, and envelopes, whereas “stationary” is an adjective, describing a person, object, or situation to be at a standstill or immobile.

School supplies such as paper, exercise books, and pens are all items that refer to stationery.

Here is an example of using the adjective “stationary” correctly:

  • The car remained stationary in the middle of the crossing.

Remember the letters “er” at the end of the word “stationery” and relate it to the word “paper.”